First Man on the Moon

NOVA will air First Man on the Moon tonight.

‘Addicted’ to bachelor’s degrees

America must break its “addiction” to bachelor’s degrees and recognize other routes to the middle class, said Mark Schneider of the American Institutes for Research, as part of a lecture series on social mobility.  “The contemporary bachelor’s degree takes too long, it’s too expensive and it’s not for everyone,” he said.

Wage data show that one- and two-year degrees and certificates in technical fields lead to rewarding careers, reports Diverse.  Plumbers and technicians with a vocational certificate can earn more than $71,000 a year a decade after entering the workforce. That’s more than many bachelor’s degree holders earn, especially those in non-technical fields. “Where you learn how to fix things, you win,”  said Schneider.

His College Measures web site provides information about expected wages for different degrees or certificates.

We have to make people understand there are cheaper ways to get people into the labor market,” Schneider said, noting that surveys have shown students say high wages and middleclass careers are important goals.

On average, four-year graduates earn more than those with two-year degrees, but “much is hidden in the averages,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

“What we have is a big black box in American higher education, a big impenetrable black box. It cost about $450 billion per year. It has 20 million students in it,” Carnevale said. “We’re not sure what produces learning and earning. We drop money in it every year, pay almost no attention to what comes out at the other end, and at some point that becomes intolerable because we don’t have another $450 billion.”

Both agreed the U.S. can’t afford to keep putting money into higher education without considering the outcomes.

 

Colleges compete on ‘leisure pools’

best-college-pools-Oklahoma State UniversityOklahoma State’s $20 million Colvin Rec Center includes an indoor/outdoor pool, a gym, rock climbing, basketball and racquetball courts, putting greens and golf simulators and a wellness center.

Two-thirds of the “30 best college leisure pools” are located at state universities, notes Rick Hess. What does this say about higher education?

College Rank‘s list includes “institutions that routinely insist they desperately need more state funds, including two University of California campuses and two Cal State campuses,” he writes.

When legislatures trim public spending, universities don’t cut back on the pools; instead, they resort to the old “close the Washington Monument strategy” and wring their hands while explaining they’re going to have to shutter the chemistry department. In fact, outside of Purdue under President Mitch Daniels, in recent years, it’s hard to think of a major university that has really made cutting costs and trimming fat a point of public pride.

“Having an incredible pool on campus (often with lazy rivers!) gives colleges a leg up on competition,” according to College Rank. As tuition rises, students are pickier about the amenities that “complete the collegiate experience.”

 

Parents don’t choose diversity

Parent choice is making San Francisco schools more segregated, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mural at San Francisco's Cleveland Elementary School.

Mural at San Francisco’s Cleveland Elementary School.

One third of the city’s public schools are “racially isolated,” which means 60+ percent of students are of the same racial or ethnic group.

Overall, 41 percent of the city’s public school students are Asian-American, 27 percent are Latino, 13 percent are white, 10 percent black and the rest “other.” About 30 percent of the city’s young people attend private or parochial schools.

Here’s a non-surprise:

Diversity and integration are rarely cited as top factors in choosing a public school. Instead, district surveys of parents show the safety of a school’s neighborhood, the quality of its staff and its reputation are paramount.

Clarendon, the high-achieving school in the story is about one third Asian, one third white and the rest Latino, black and mixed. It offers a Japanese bilingual program for some students; the rest learn Italian.

At the low-achieving school, Cleveland, 82 percent of students come from low-income and working-class Latino families. Parents choose the school because it’s close to home. It offers a Spanish bilingual program.

Cleveland receives $360,000 more than Clarendon from the state each year — $1,000 per student — because its students are so poor and so many of them don’t speak English. The idea is to direct more resources to the neediest schools, but Clarendon more than offsets that through avid parent fundraising and donations from the Japanese and Italian consulates.

(Cleveland Principal March)Sanchez uses the extra state money for basic support, including separate Spanish and English literacy coaches, a technology teacher, tablet computers and laptops.

After being trained by a nonprofit to be an activist, mother Ana Hodgson is “done with public schools,” reports the Chronicle. She got her son into a summer program for low-income achievers that helped him get a scholarship at a private middle school.

New tests take longer, but are they better?

You are a congresswoman’s aide. Using the articles, videos and charts provided, write an essay advising her whether to support or oppose a nuclear power plant in her district.

New Common Core tests include “performance tasks” like this example from the Smarter Balanced Consortium, writes Emmanuel Felton on the Hechinger Report. Is it worth the time, cost and unreliability it adds to testing?

. . . in addition to the multiple-choice-heavy parts of the tests, which can take up to almost five hours (depending on the test and grade level), the performance tasks add up to 4 ½ hours to the Smarter Balanced tests and 6 ½ hours to the PARCC tests.

Smarter Balanced performance tasks include 30-minute classroom activities — one for the math section and one for the English section — in which students, for example, learn about and discuss nuclear power before they start the writing assignment.

The 30-minute activities are supposed to eliminate the benefits of prior knowledge of the subject. But some students will get better teaching or a fuller discussion of the subject, concedes Andrew Latham,  director of Assessment & Standards Development Services at WestEd, a nonprofit that worked with Smarter Balanced and PARCC on the new tests. 

“It’s asking students to think evaluatively and analytically about the texts they are given,” said Justin McGehee, who teaches English at Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton, California. “But with all of that writing, the scoring is very wide open.”

Performance tasks “are tremendously difficult to score, you get better statistics without open-ended questions so there are always trade-offs,” Latham says.

School Day

Head Start is 50 years old

Head Start got its start 50 years ago as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program. What’s its legacy? asks PBS NewsHour.

The story quotes the head of the Ford Foundation, who was a Head Start kid, but it also includes Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies preschool programs. Federal studies have found Head Start graduates do no better than a control group by third grade, he points out.

They were not better readers. They were not doing math better. They didn’t have better social development. They didn’t have better health outcomes.

It costs $8 billion a year and makes no difference in anything we can measure.

Schools sued for not being ‘trauma sensitive’

Beaten and sexually abused by his addict mother’s boyfriends, Peter P. did poorly in school. When he was kicked out of a foster home, the 11th grader slept on the roof of his high school till he was discovered — and suspended.

Kimberly Cervantes, 18, is suing Compton Unified for failing to provide "trauma-sensitive services."

Kimberly Cervantes, 18, is suing Compton Unified for failing to provide “trauma-sensitive services.”

Peter P., four other students and three teachers have filed a lawsuit against Compton Unified, which serves a low-income, high-crime city near Los Angeles. Students who’ve experienced violence, abuse, homelessness, foster care and other “adverse childhood experiences” need “trauma-sensitive services” in school, the suit argues. It calls for “complex trauma” to be considered a learning disability.

“The lawsuit is seeking training for staff to recognize trauma, mental health support for students to cope with their condition and a shift from punitive disciplinary practices to those based on reconciliation and healing,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Traumatized students are kicked out of school rather than helped, according to the suit.

Another student at age 8 first witnessed someone being shot and killed and has seen more than 20 other shootings since then — one of them resulting in the death of a close friend, according to the lawsuit.

Another student, Kimberly Cervantes, 18, a senior at Cesar Chavez Continuation School, said she stopped attending school for weeks at a time after multiple traumas, including being told by teachers at a different school that her bisexuality was “wrong.”

Los Angeles Unified provides counseling for traumatized students. One Guatemalan boy had witnessed rebel soldiers killing villagers, then saw gang violence in Los Angeles, said Marleen Wong, a USC social work professor who designed the program.

. . . Martin learned about trauma, how to calm himself and how to apply the relaxation techniques in his daily life, she said. Techniques included walking to school with others so as not to be alone and seeking teachers to support him.

. . . “He was able to go back to school, calmed down, had fewer fights and better attendance.”

There’s no question that some students have been through hell — and that it may affect their ability to behave and learn. But do we want to consider them disabled?

Family stress is their students’ greatest barrier to school success, say state Teachers of the Year in a new survey. Next came poverty, and learning and psychological problems.

I’m back

Thanks to Darren of Right on the Left Coast for blogging up a storm while I was traveling.

I had a moment in St. Petersburg that reminded me that comprehension depends on knowledge. We were walking along Nevsky Prospect, the main drag, when police cars blocked the road. We saw several jeeps with elderly women leading thousands of young, jovial rollerbladers in red T-shirts with a word in Russian. (Not being able to read Cyrillic was very, very frustrating for me.) Some were carrying the old Soviet flag with the hammer and sickle.  Pro-Communist demonstrators? They seemed too young. Then I saw the shirts said “1945.”

I knew the city — then Leningrad — had survived a 2 1/2-year siege during World War II. The Soviet flag had been the country’s flag in 1945, the flag of victory. When I got a wi-fi connection, I asked an app to translate “victory” to Russian. Yep. It was the word on the shirt.

I’m now in Kentucky for a family wedding. I believe the reception is at a bourbon distillery.

Pell Grants For Prisoners

What conditions are different from 1994 such that this program would now be considered?

The U.S. Department of Education is poised to announce a limited exemption to the federal ban on prisoners receiving Pell Grants to attend college while they are incarcerated.

Correctional education experts and other sources said they expect the department to issue a waiver under the experimental sites program, which allows the feds to lift certain rules that govern aid programs in the spirit of experimentation. If the project is successful, it would add to momentum for the U.S. Congress to consider overturning the ban it passed on the use of Pell for prisoners in 1994…

Even a limited experiment will provoke controversy. Spending government money on college programs for convicted criminals is an easy target for conservative pundits and for some lawmakers from both political parties…

The administration estimated that roughly 4,000 of the 60,000 incarcerated juvenile offenders would be eligible for federal aid. That investment makes sense, they said, given that it costs an average of $88,000 per year to lock up a juvenile offender. And inmates of all ages are half as likely to go back to jail if they take college courses.